Silicon solutions? - Monocolumn | Monocle


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1 July 2015

You’re the newly hired fresh face in the cabinet of Country X. Your central concerns: economic growth, innovation, building the business portfolio. We’ll assume you’ve been plucked from a forward-thinking start-up and chosen for your blue-sky ideas (not your relations with the corrupt interior minister). You’re ambitious. Excited, even. And since this thought experiment is set to “idealistic”, you are ready to make a difference.

Day one. Your iPhone buzzes with a note from the PM, your boss. The subject line: “BUILD US A SILICON VALLEY!” The body of the message: empty. You immediately regret quitting your job with the stratospheric salary and gluten-free lunches. Too late now. After a few deep breaths, you begin.

Like all good projects, you start with Google. A search for “The Silicon Valley of…” results in auto-filled options with varying degrees of helpfulness: India, Europe, the US, Canada, China, Brazil, Texas and, for some reason, dreams (and weed). But no X. You’re starting from scratch.

So how do you build a glistening hive of innovation from the ether? Many countries have attempted it. After weeks of research, after poring over case studies, you’ve got your game plan. Here’s what to do:

– First, ignore the fact that a vast chunk of X’s citizens, as in most countries, are actually entrepreneurs: plumbers and café owners, consultants and auto mechanics. But in the Valley book, entrepreneurs means tech, start-ups and code. Pay no attention to the former kind of entrepreneur as the latter will “disrupt” them in the new digital economy.

– Build vast innovation parks. Incentivise research universities to shift their focuses. Yet overlook that graduates of X cannot afford to live nearby. In fact, they’re all fleeing to Country Y, where salaries are higher, rent is lower and opportunities are brighter. But solving systemic social issues is someone else’s job.

– Avoid developing the industries that X does really well: avocado farming and auto design. Instead, promote heavy investment in an app that sends the alien emoji to friends and a service to swap unused hot yoga sessions.

– Assume in blind faith that start-ups will solve X’s sky-high unemployment rate. Overlook that Instagram was sold for $1bn with only a dozen employees.

– Disregard diversity.

– Expand everything as quickly as possible. Rinse and repeat. Wait for innovation to “happen”. If things move too slowly, throw more money at it. Wait. And wait.

– Google ‘”How to ask for your old job back”.

Daniel Giacopelli is a producer and presenter on Monocle 24.


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